Not all athletes today are well versed on the subject of diet and nutrition and how it relates to their individual training and particular sport and yet, there is no other sport where diet plays more of a crucial role than boxing. How easily you shed the pounds to make your weight-class could be the deciding factor in how you perform and, ultimately, whether you come out with a win or not. However, this article is as much about weight loss, as it is on a particular compound and how to choose the best products that contain it. The compound I'm referring to is...protein. I've covered protein, in general, in past articles but would like to focus more intently a particular source... Meat.
Whether meat is healthy for us or not is debatable. Everybody has an opinion on whether it's best to be pro Vegan, Vegetarian or if the healthier choice lies at the opposite end of the spectrum, in choosing an Atkins or Paleo diet. Personally, I don't subscribe to any of these, but lets just assume that you plan on getting at least some of your protein intake from meat. You would probably want to know the benefits and downfalls of that wouldn't you? There are certainly positive and negative aspects,so why is protein even important?
Protein is the building blocks of our body. It consists of a combination of structures called amino acids. These amino acids combine in various ways to make muscles, bone, tendons, skin, hair, and other tissues. Their other functions include nutrient transportation and enzyme production. There are actually over ten thousand different proteins in the body.
Sufficient protein intake, on a regular basis, is essential because it is not easily stored in the body. "Complete Proteins" are protein sources that contain all 8 essential amino acids. Most of these come from meat, fish and eggs. Other sources such as vegetables, fruit and nuts do not contain all 8 essential amino acids, which makes them "Incomplete Proteins". This is why its often hard for vegetarian athletes to get adequate amounts of protein.
Athletes need protein to rebuild and repair muscle that has been broken down during exercise. Protein also helps to optimize carbohydrate storage in the form of glycogen. And although protein is not an ideal source of fuel (especially for exercise), it can be used when the diet has less than ideal amounts of carbohydrates. However, this will ultimately wreck havoc on your body because if protein is used for fuel, there won't be enough available to repair body tissues, like muscle.
So, for an athlete who is is depending on getting his or her protein from meat, here are some things to look out for:
To begin with, personally I think pork is disgusting and should never be consumed. Wait a minute...before all you bacon lovers start squealing, consider these facts. You are what you eat... right? Pork is highly toxic and a diseased meat. A pig eats anything it sees or is given, including its own feces. Whatever it eats is quickly digested and then turned into meat on its bones within a few hours. Pork products are filled with viruses and diseases, making it toxic and unhealthy. When consumed, the human body literally goes into shock, and has to produce massive amounts of blood and energy, sent to the intestines and stomach, to digest and breakdown this toxic meat. The digestive system will then work nonstop for up to eighteen hours attempting the neutralize and digest the nearly indigestible material. If you're someone who eats pork, eliminating this from your diet will have a profound impact on your health.
The next most important thing to consider is the source your meat comes from and how the animal was treated. This is an incredibly complex subject, but we'll try to break it down. Choosing organic whenever possible is the first step. "Organic" means that the chickens and cows were given organic feed (free of any animal by-products) and were not shot full of antibiotics. They were free to roam naturally and grow at a normal rate, without being loaded with toxins or diseases (Vaccines). It also means that the animals were not crowded in small cages, shoulder to shoulder and were, ultimately, killed in a much more humane way.
For beef, going "Grass-Fed" is unquestionably the best way to go. Grass-Fed beef (and there really shouldn't be any other way a cow is fed), has a perfect pH of 7 which allows for an abundance of the essential fermentation bacteria that creates high levels of CLA, omega-3's, branch-chain amino acids, vitamins and digestive enzymes. Aside from being a proven cancer fighter, CLA is known to aid in weight-loss and can even be purchased as an individual supplement. So why not get that natural, added benefit in the steak you're eating?
One of the downfalls, when it comes to these meats, is digestion. It takes an enormous amount of energy for your body to digest food in general, let alone an 8oz steak or a few chicken legs. Because of this, it can cause a slump in energy that will detract from your workouts? Taking meat out of your meals entirely for a few days and observing your energy levels and performance during your workouts would be one way to approach it. Once you have a gauge of how you feel, then you can add it back in to see how the results compare. It may affect you, it may not. We are all built differently with different digestive systems so you have to find what's best for you.
Fish is another subject altogether. The general recommendation used to be that, if you bought fish that was "Wild Caught" you would be good to go. However, today that's not necessarily the case. With all of the pollution in our oceans, even "Wild Caught" can contain a considerable amount of toxins. In the past, it was also easy believed that "Farm Raised" fish were bad because they were genetically modified, given unnatural feed, not to mention that they were swimming in they're own waste. But today, companies like Whole Foods are going to great lengths to produce fish that are "Farm Raised" in very clean waters, given healthy feed and plenty of space to swim, similar conditions to what they would have in the wild. Having said all of that, your best bet is (unless you're buying from a high-quality company like Whole Foods) to always choose wild caught, because its ultimately safer than conventionally farm raised fish.
The benefits of fish, chicken, red meat, grass-fed beef could all have entire articles dedicated to them, the pros and cons. Until we choose to go there, the bottom line is...eat as close to as nature intended as you possibly can. That is the single most important thing you can do for your body. Whether you choose to eat no meat, only a little or a large amount, choosing meat that is the most humanely-raised and natural is, by far, the safest choice and will provide you with the level of health you deserve. Good protein is just a piece of the dietary puzzle that assists a fighter in feeling his best, performing his best and living with a higher quality of life. Taking care of yourself will not only affect you now, but can also help guarantee that life after boxing is more enjoyable. No matter why you do it, whether its to make weight, gain muscle or just get healthier, meat is an invaluable source of protein and what fighter wouldn't want to look back on his career and be able to hear the words "Well done."
Written by TITLE Boxing contributor, Spencer Ward who is a boxer and nutritionist currently residing in Los Angeles, CA.